The Pervasive Idealism

Of all the labels others have tried to stick to me in my life, there seems to be one that keeps coming around, no matter what face I may choose to wear or what path I am travelling: Idealist. It seems to be the place where my discussions with those who hold fundamentally different belief systems come unravelled, the convenient expiration date on their patience. Whether the topic at hand is war, abortion, religion, or love, apparently a discussion of theory behind our decision making process is enough to be categorized as an idealist, and thereby dismissed.

The Free Dictionary defines “idealism” as follows:

1. The act or practice of envisioning things in an ideal form.
2. Pursuit of one’s ideals.
3. Idealized treatment of a subject in literature or art.
4. Philosophy The theory that the object of external perception, in itself or as perceived, consists of ideas.

It seems that the first definition is the one people most commonly like to toss about with the personal epithet. Think about that. The notion that envisioning “a standard or model of perfection or excellence”, or “An honorable or worthy principle or aim” could be considered a bad thing. If we have no idea where we want to go, how can we possibly expect to get there? Of course, we must also be able to see clearly what ground we currently stand upon, and be able to conceive of a path from our current situation to our ideal. What is worth noting, however, is that by this definition of the term, we are all idealists. The only differences between us lie in how we envision our ideals. Continue reading

Beyond Rational: How To Discuss Contentious Topics and Keep Your Cool

In “civilized” society, we know that one of the cardinal rules is that there are certain topics one just simply does not bring up: politics, religion, money, and sex. The problem, of course, is that without these subjects most dinner parties devolve into inane conversations about the weather, and online communities such as Newsvine would not even exist. Being a lifelong veteran of the art of asking questions which bring dinner parties to a sudden and ominous silence, and yet rather partial to discussions which go somewhere other than “taking it outside”, I thought it might be of value to share some of the insights and techniques I have acquired over the years in the hopes that we can all get a little farther in discussing topics which are actually topics (as opposed to the weather, which I assure you really isn’t).
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